Reporter Donations? A Few, Here and There

An NPR senior editor gave $100 to Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.

A Sports Illustrated columnist kicked in $200 to Mitch Morrisey’s successful campaign for Denver district attorney.

A Denver Post wire editor gave $225 to various Democratic campaigns, while a Colorado Springs Gazette arts writer gave $100 to Democratic efforts.

The helicopter pilot for CBS4 News in Denver gave $100 to Republican Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial bid.

Following up on our look at federal contributions by Colorado publishers a couple of weeks ago, Colorado Confidential decided to peruse the state contribution database. More after the jump….Fewer than 30 reporters and editors contributed just over $3,700 to candidates and political parties in Colorado between 2004 and 2006. (We’ll get to state contributions from publishers and executives Thursday.) 

Most of that money – $2,329 – went to Democratic candidates and causes.

Ethics policies often prohibit campaign contributions to candidates, parties or issue organizations In many – but not all – news organizations. Last month, MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman created a stir with a report on federal contributions made by journalists.

The Society of Professional Journalists, led by Denver Post assistant features editor Christine Tatum, responded with a statement commending the MSNBC report and urging disclosure by news organizations.

Ironically, one of those on the list of journalistic donors at the state political level is Denver Post wire editor Andrew Rogers, who at total of $225 to Democratic House, Senate and a Jefferson County clerk candidate.

The Post’s ethics policy doesn’t specifically prohibit donating to political causes:

Newsroom employees are encouraged to vote and engage in private debate as long as their views are expressed as their own and not representing the views of the newspaper.
To avoid conflicts of interest, employees should take great care in joining any group, but especially organizations that engage in political advocacy. While a membership may seem benign, it could place the employee or The Denver Post in a conflict if the organization or its mission becomes involved in controversy.
Newsroom employees should avoid joining organizations or institutions they cover or about which they make editorial decisions.
Employees should take care in considering whether to attend any rally, march or demonstration, especially those events that are overtly political.
Employees may not run for public office or be appointed to any public boards or commissions if such service will create a conflict of interest or is exploitation of the employee’s connection to The Denver Post.

Rogers noted the policy in an e-mailed response to a Colorado Confidential inquiry:

I didn’t notify my supervisors about campaign contributions I made in 2004 and 2006, if he or she had asked I would have been happy to inform them. My contributions fell into the category of being too small to be of any concern, in my opinion.
I think it is important to note that I am not involved in any political coverage at The Post, I do not determine story play nor do I edit political stories. On the off chance that a story about someone whom I had contributed to where to get to my desk, I would recuse myself from that story and ask someone else to edit it…
Because of my work assignment away from the political arena, I did not feel any conflict existed as defined by The Post ethics policy.
My contributions to candidates in Jefferson County, where I live, were in an effort to encourage good civic government, I don’t believe a monopoly of political office — by either party — encourages good government, and my efforts in supporting Democrats is an attempt to bring a more balanced party lineup to the county.
I have known several of the candidates and office holders that I contributed to for many years, I consider them my friends.

In Colorado Springs, Gazette arts writer Mark Arnest gave$100 to Democratic candidates and causes, which are often opposed by his newspaper’s editorial board. When contacted by Colorado Confidential, Arnest offered this info from the Gazette’s ethics policy:

“Political affiliation is allowed. General issue-oriented membership and advocacy is allowed unless it conflicts with a newsroom associates’
coverage area. For example, it’s OK for a copy editor to belong to The Sierra Club, but not for the city hall reporter to contribute money to, or otherwise publicly endorse, the campaign of a council candidate.”

That about covers it. I don’t feel any conflict of interest.

Others on the list:

  • CBS4 News helicopter pilot Mike Silva, who gave $100 to Republican Bob Beauprez’s unsuccessful gubernatorial race. Silva is currently serving in Iraq.
  • Julie Ritter, a 9News producer, gave $100 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter. Roger Masterton, who listed himself as a 9News reporter gave $67 to his county party; a 9News spokeswoman said there is no employee by that name at the station.
  • Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly donated $200 to Mitch Morrisey’s successful 2004 race for Denver District Attorney.
  • NPR senior editor Loren Jenkins, who lives in Snowmass, gave $100 to Pitkin County Sheriff Ted Braudis.
  • Grand Junction Sentinel reporter Mike McKibben, who covers Rifle, spent $25 to buy a ticket to an event he covered. That amount showed up as a donation to the House Majority Project, a Democratic group.

To gather this information, we used searches similar to those used by MSNBC investigative reporter Dedman used. We searched occupation and employer fields in a database of state political contributions from January 2004 to December 2006 for words such as reporter, editor, journalist and writer, as well as news, media and Post. Excluded were writers and editors in book or magazine publishing, as well as self-employed writers.

Keep in mind, it’s entirely possible to miss people who didn’t list an occupation or employer.

Here’s a look at the list we came up with: